April 29, 2008

Homeschooling

I don't homeschool my children. Both boys attend the public schools in our hometown for a number of reasons. The most obvious and insurmountable fact is that both my husband and I work full-time outside the home. Doing homework in the evenings is a challenge; fitting in several constructive hours of schooling in the evenings would be impossible. Neither of us would have the patience for it.

What if I didn't work full-time, though? Would I join the ranks of homeschooling parents everywhere? This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately.

A few years ago the answer would have been a resounding "No", but times have changed and so have I. Homeschooling no longer seems quite the tragic prison it once represented in my mind. Suddenly the benefits appear to outweigh the risks.

As you likely know if you've been around here for any length of time, my oldest boy has a hard time in school. A very, very hard time. Although he's well-liked and seems well adjusted socially, he struggles like nobody's business in several subjects. Even though we've put him on a low dose of meds to subdue the ADHD behaviors and we initially saw an improvement in his scores, recent papers have shown a marked decrease. He's all over the place. Everything from 100% to 50% appeared on his last batch of work.

To say this is frustrating is putting it mildly. More than that, though, it makes me sad. Deep-down-in-the-pit-of-your-belly sad.

And it scares me.

I have a really hard time with the idea of my kid failing. Although I know it's insane, I feel as if it's a reflection of our parenting. Perhaps it is. Maybe we don't do everything right. Maybe we let him play too much and don't push reading and writing and math like we should. Maybe, just maybe, we want him to be a kid more than we want him to become the next Einstein.

Yet, I can guarantee there's not a single kid in his class who works harder than he does. I know that we make sure he practices his spelling words, studies for quizzes and tests, and completes the random homework sheets sent home by his teacher. I know he tries. I know he wants to succeed and feels the bite of defeat whenever he fails.

Still. Maybe there's more we can do.

This mindset often results in hours spent pondering what I can do to help him do better. Mind you, I'm not looking for perfect scores, just better ones. So what can I do even though our spare time together is limited and precious? Not to mention I don't want him to be so overwhelmed by school that he burns out at such a tender age.

Even so, I know something has to be done and my husband and I are the only ones who can do it. Fully cognizant of this fact, I decided a few weeks ago that my son and I would spend time together reading a book. I had picked up two novels at the Scholastic book fair several weeks prior to this decision, so I knew exactly what book we would read.

I'm going to be shockingly candid right now.

We are not reading either book. In fact, we aren't reading anything. I've been too lazy to wrangle him up and force the quiet reading time on him. Maybe writing that shockingly bad-mom truth on my blog will compel me to go home and grab both the kid and the book. We'll see.

Now it's time for the second bad-mom truth.

I've helped adults learn how to become better writers, yet I cannot seem to do the same for my 10-year-old son. Even worse is the fact that this child has a wonderful, vivid imagination and I've not been able to cultivate and nurture it.

So I've decided to set my child up with a blog of his own. The idea came from looking at the blog entries found on Fifth Grade Web Writers. If you have a minute, check them out. I had no idea 5th Graders were capable of such things! My almost-5th-Grader (if the planets align) certainly isn't. And he should be.

So a blog.

Mom is going to teach him to write. I figured I would have him write in it once a week until I found this quote today:


Our data show that children need to write a minimum of 4 days a week to see any appreciable change in the quality of their writing. It takes that amount of writing to contribute to their personal development as learners. Unless children write at least 4 days a week, they won't like it. Once-a-week writing (the national average is about 1 day in 8) merely reminds them they can't write; they never write often enough to listen to their writing." (http://www.ldonline.org/article/6204)
Wow. 4 times a week. That's a lot of writing and a lot of dedication for a 10-year-old. Still, it makes perfect sense. With my creative writing I know I've improved only through trial and error, something which can be achieved only through practice. If I want my son to improve his writing abilities, it's going to take practice and dedication. For both of us. e

When I consider this, I realize I may not be able to proclaim myself a homeschooling mother in the traditional sense, but the truth is that I am homeschooling my child. I'm in partnership with the public school system. They get to teach him everything he'll need to know on the MEAP, and I get to teach him everything they simply don't have enough time and resources to cover.